We were very lucky to have a peach tree in our garden when we were children. We lived in a downstairs flat and the old lady who lived above and owned our flat let us use all the garden. Like a lot of people in the past who were on limited incomes, my parents used the large garden not just as a play area for us children, with borders of flowers and shrubs, but as an important resource for growing fruit and vegetables. Council houses in those days usually had good sized garden with the clear idea that people on low incomes could supplement their diets with fresh, home grown, organic fruit and veg (and sometimes a few chickens and rabbits too) Dad was a keen gardener and a good gardener, no doubt learning from his grandpa who had a small garden, from neighbours and friends, and from the book my mum gave him for his birthday, the first year they were married.
We had all the usual vegetables, potatoes, onions, carrots, leeks, cabbages and cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, peas and beans of al varieties, but we also had what now seems luxury, but in those days wasn’t, asparagus! We had cordons of apple trees, a cherry tree which succumbed to an aphid invasion and a white peach tree. Our neighbour had a golden peach tree – his was very prolific, ours sadly was not but the flavour of those giant fruit when they did appear and ripen was divine! To this day I much prefer perfumed white peaches to golden. My dad and the neighbour had an idea to use the root stock of the golden peach and graft on the white peach… Even though they were experienced at grafting, it was tricky, and sadly our peach tree died, not from aphids but from peach leaf curl so the grafting experiment never succeeded.
Every time I buy peaches, I think of those rare delights from my childhood! … and every time I read this wonderful poem by Andrew Marvell I think of our delicious peaches from my childhood:
How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays,
And their uncessant labours see
Crown’d from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow verged shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid;
While all flow’rs and all trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose.
Fair Quiet, have I found thee here,
And Innocence, thy sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busy companies of men;
Your sacred plants, if here below,
Only among the plants will grow.
Society is all but rude,
To this delicious solitude.
No white nor red was ever seen
So am’rous as this lovely green.
Fond lovers, cruel as their flame,
Cut in these trees their mistress’ name;
Little, alas, they know or heed
How far these beauties hers exceed!
Fair trees! wheres’e’er your barks I wound,
No name shall but your own be found.
When we have run our passion’s heat,
Love hither makes his best retreat.
The gods, that mortal beauty chase,
Still in a tree did end their race:
Apollo hunted Daphne so,
Only that she might laurel grow;
And Pan did after Syrinx speed,
Not as a nymph, but for a reed.
What wond’rous life in this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Ensnar’d with flow’rs, I fall on grass.
Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness;
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find,
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.
Here at the fountain’s sliding foot,
Or at some fruit tree’s mossy root,
Casting the body’s vest aside,
My soul into the boughs does glide;
There like a bird it sits and sings,
Then whets, and combs its silver wings;
And, till prepar’d for longer flight,
Waves in its plumes the various light.
Such was that happy garden-state,
While man there walk’d without a mate;
After a place so pure and sweet,
What other help could yet be meet!
But ’twas beyond a mortal’s share
To wander solitary there:
Two paradises ’twere in one
To live in paradise alone.
How well the skillful gard’ner drew
Of flow’rs and herbs this dial new,
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run;
And as it works, th’ industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs!